21 June 2012

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Directly after Okka Fest 4, I started working on transcriptions for “The Midwest School” project I suggested I’d do to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the concerts of Jazz & Improvised Music that Dave Rempis has been curating for the last decade (hard to believe that much time has gone by since he began the weekly series at 3030). Back in January he asked me to do something “special” to acknowledge the decade anniversary back, and at the time I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore my interest in the music renaissance that took place in the Midwest during the late 1960s, one that was perhaps best represented by the AACM in Chicago but also included (for me) the work of the Black Artists Group in St. Louis. As soon as I started reviewing the albums to select material, I realized that I had greatly underestimated the work involved. Why I did is beyond me, just look at whose music I chose to investigate- the diverse alto players connected to this scene- Anthony Braxton, Julius Hemphill, Roscoe online us Mitchell, Henry Threadgill- all brilliant multi-instrumentalists who were also brilliant composers. Why did I think this would be anything but an extreme challenge? Going through all the albums I had from the the 1970s period- when these artists were all still in the Midwest area- was a blast. In the end I selected: Anthony Braxton (6C, 69J), Julius Hemphill (Dogon AD, The Hard Blues/Skin 1), Roscoe Mitchell (Nonaah), and Henry Threadgill (Untitled Tango, Keep Right On Playing Through The Mirror Over The Water).

During the stretch of work on the the transcriptions I played a set of music with DD Kern, Nate McBride (on electric bass), and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello and guitar) at Elastic on the Thursday the 14th. From the opening moments we were in heavy “Last Exit” territory. First up on that night was a duo of Jamie Branch and Steve Hunt, great to hear her play trumpet before she headed to Baltimore to continue her music studies, and great to hear Steve Hunt on the drums. After some frantic days and nights, I got the charts ready for the 2 rehearsals with the band (Jason Adasiewicz, Jeb Bishop, Josh Berman, Tim Daisy, Nick Mazzarella, Nate McBride, Dave Rempis, Mars Williams; what a great lineup of musicians to work with). The charts worked out and were played beautifully by the band at the concert at Elastic on the 21st of June. The title of the concert, “Celebrating The Midwest School,” was apt- the house was packed and the music expressed the composers’ ideas as well as the reinterpretation in the scores, with great performances by the band. A few very late nights of work went into getting things done- wondering why I suggested the idea to Dave half a year ago- but it was all well, well worth it.
Braxton’s “Composition No. 69J” from the show-

and his “Composition No. 6C,”